Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid badly wants to play in Game 3 of the Heat-76ers series, but the 76ers might be inclined to wait at least another game before clearing him to return from a facial injury.
After completing a practice in Overtown on Wednesday, the 76ers listed Embiid as doubtful for Thursday's playoff game at AmericanAirlines Arena.
If Embiid doesn't play in Game 3, this would be the 11th consecutive game he has missed since fracturing an orbital bone near his left eye.
Embiid appeared to be referencing his injury when he posted on Instagram on Monday that he was "sick and tired of being babied."
For the first time, Embiid "did a little bit of contact [in a Tuesday practice]," 76ers coach Brett Brown said before the team announced Embiid would be listed as doubtful. "Got up and down and scripted some plays. But really not much more than that."
Brown said Embiid handled the contact "quite well" and would have a similar workload during Wednesday's practice.
When Embiid returns, the 76ers would be getting back an All-Star who averaged 22.0 points and 11.9 rebounds in 63 games.
"Defensively, he immediately comes in and changes the landscape," Brown said. "The adjustment offensively might be a little bit more noticeable than defensively initially. He really is as smart and instinctive a player as I’ve coached. He can look at something without doing it and then go do it.
"As you would expect after being off how ever many weeks not playing, it’s going to take time getting his fitness up. Whenever the time comes where he does play, I think it will move in a more rapid way. His body looks great."
76ers forward Robert Covington said: "Overall, everybody is happy he’s back. The first two playoff games he didn’t experience he said he was frustrated by it because he promised the city he would bring the playoffs home. Him being out there now, he’s super excited."
Embiid drained seven consecutive three-pointers during a brief part of practice open to the media.
Simmons to adjust
James Johnson did good work defending Sixers star Ben Simmons in Game 2, and Simmons said he will "probably" do some things differently when Johnson defends him. "Just keep attacking him," Simmons said.
Simmons insisted he wasn't bothered by the Heat's physical defense on him: "I enjoy it. I got a few [things] coming their way."
▪ Covington said "it's very hard" not to respond to the Heat's physicality with a reaction that could result in a foul call.
"You just got to match it," he said. "That’s one thing they did against us. We want to do the same once we in Game 3. .... [But] nobody wants to get fined. You cannot get caught up in the moment and do something crazy."
Brown wants his team to have a cerebral response to the Heat's physicality.
"It doesn’t have to be macho vs. macho," Brown said. "That’s not how we want to play. We want to have an intellectual response to physicality. It can mean speed. It can mean space. A simple jab step of putting your arm in somebody's chest and throwing out a lead hand, something you learned in eighth grade.
"It all equals fundamentals, poise, technique to combat physicality. It’s not they punch you, you punch them, they punch you.
It’s not that at all. It’s some of that, but it isn’t all of that. There’s not one thing that didn’t go on the other night we didn’t anticipate. Words are cheap, actions are real."
▪ Simmons expressed admiration for Dwyane Wade in the wake of his 28-point performance in Game 2.
"For me to step on the court and have him be on the same floor is special," Simmons said, adding he worked out with Wade a few summers ago. "For me to play against somebody like that, I just watch and observe and try to learn as many things as he does on the floor."
Said Brown: "You watch the rhythm, how he played and the ease with which he did it confirmed how good he is."